Pointless I

June 6, 2017

This is the first in a series of three posts about Yau Hang Chan, vexatious litigant who currently faces the prospect of prosecution for contempt of court.

Like all long and sad tails, the beginning must lie buried in the mists of time, but it is necessary to begin somewhere.

Tenancy appeal

In February 2003 Yau Hang Chan entered into a residential tenancy agreement in respect of a room in a building at Croydon, for the term of one year commencing on 8 February 2003 and ending on 7 February 2004.  That, you might observe, is pretty much the most humble rental accommodation possible.  You can assume Chan was not a man of any substantial means.

On 3 December, the landlord gave him notice that he had to leave at the end of the term.  Chan did not leave and the landlords quite briskly obtained an order from the Residential Tenancy Tribunal for his eviction in March 2004.  Chan resisted this order by appealing (I infer some time in March 2004) to the Supreme Court, on grounds, mostly procedural, which were ultimately found to be baseless on 13 August 2004.  It counts as a mercy that he was then given until 27 August 2004 before the eviction order could be carried out.  He reached the end of the road with an application to the Court of Appeal for a stay pending an appeal to the court which was rejected on 24 August 2004.  Evictions are rarely carried out on the very first possible day, but nevertheless you can assume he was out pretty soon after that.

This must have been a dark time for Mr Chan.  On the other hand by his resistance he had effectively extended his occupation of the room for about six months, which was a pretty good result.

Chan’s situation was apparently desperate enough for him to be allocated public housing, which he moved into on 18 February 2005.

Unsuccessful TAFE studies proceedings 

By then Chan had enrolled in January 2005 in a course at Ultimo TAFE.  In the second half of that year he was enrolled in the subject “Develop and Apply Knowledge of the Library/Information Services Industries.”  This ran from July to 30 November. On 15 November his teacher informed him that he had failed a group presentation assessment task.

On 16 November 2005 Chan commenced proceedings challenging this in the Supreme Court against the the teacher personally and the TAFE Commission.  When the matter first came before the court on 20 November it was stood down to give the parties the chance to reach a negotiated resolution.  Mr Chan wanted to withdraw from the course without penalty.  The TAFE Commission said that he could withdraw but that a fail would still be recorded.  Chan withdrew and a fail was recorded.  You can see that from his position the negotiations were fruitless and probably they were always going to be.  Chan continued his proceedings.  These were ultimately summarily dismissed by Master Malpass (actually by then he was an Associate Justice but Master Malpass has a much more satisfying ring) in June 2006.

Mr Chan appealed unsuccessfully against this.  He made FOI requests and appealed decisions against them.  In 2008 he commenced fresh proceedings against his TAFE teachers’ superiors with claims in defamation, misfeasance in public office and negligence.  Those claims, other than the claim for defamation, were dismissed in December 2009.

Public Housing complaints

Meanwhile, almost as soon as Chan had moved into his public housing, he came into dispute with the Housing Department (a loose term because there were name changes for the relevant entity from time to time).  Some of these he agitated in proceedings in the CTTT (the Tenancy tribunal) leading to a deed of settlement in 2006.

Claims by Chan eventually included that, from the outset, the Department had wrongfully backdated his lease by one day, that officials had defamed him, and various matters concerning condition reports and smoke detectors.  In March 2008, Chan commenced proceedings against the Department.  In 2008 he also commenced proceedings against an officer of the Department for defamation (and other matters) in relation to a letter she had sent him about inspection of smoke alarms in his property.  Both proceedings were ultimately dismissed as hopeless by Justice McCallum in August 2009.

The train ticket subpoenas

On 22 January 2007, Rail Corp brought proceedings in Sutherland Local Court against Chan for allegedly travelling on a train without a ticket.  This led to satellite proceedings commenced by Chan in April 2008 against the Local Court (a magistrate had set aside a subpoena) and even (in December 2008) against an employee of Railcorp who had appeared for Railcorp in the proceedings against the magistrate to inform the court that Railcorp rather than the magistrate was the proper defendant – as a result of which Chan was permitted to amend his summons.  The proceedings against the Railcorp employee were dismissed in April 2009 and those against the Court (by which time the Attorney-General had also been joined) in September 2009.

Perry defamation

On 9 January 2009, Chan commenced proceedings against Ms Perry alleging conspiracy and defamation in a letter she had sent him in December 2007 from the office of the NSW Premier in response to letters from him complaining about certain conduct of the NSW Police Force and about certain legal proceedings.  These proceedings were dismissed by Justice McCallum on 27 November 2009 on the basis that Chan’s pleadings and draft pleadings disclosed no reasonable cause of action ( Chan v Perry [2009] NSWSC 1293). Along the way Chan made an application that Justice McCallum disqualify herself which she dismissed on 19 November 2009 ( Chan v Perry [2009] NSWSC 1278).

Police FOI case

On 30 December 2009, Chan applied to the ADT  for review of a decision by the NSW Police Force decision in respect of a decision it had made in a relation to a privacy complaint made by him in relation to its COPS records.  This application was ultimately dismissed for want of prosecution by Chan.

Constitutional objection to court fees

On 8 February 2010, Chan caused a summons to be issued from the High Court seeking a declaration that Schedule 1 of the Civil Procedure Regulation 2005 (NSW) (relating to court fees) was invalid.  On 10 May 2017 this came before Justice Heydon – transcript here.    Although Chan had failed to file a statement of claim as required by the rules, the case was remitted to the Federal Court.

In the Federal Court Chan also filed a notice of motion seeking that certain Local Court proceedings be stayed.  On 6 August 2010 Justice Perram dismissed that application and ordered that these proceedings be dismissed if Chan had not filed a statement of claim by 30 August 2010 and stayed until he did so.  Chan did file something but in March 2011 Perram J held that it was not a statement of claim and so the proceedings had been dismissed on 30 August 2010.

Local employment training solutions

On 17 May 2010, Chan commenced proceedings in the Federal Court for preliminary discovery against Mr Harris, an employee of Catholic Care Sydney, which operates the Local Employment Training Solutions (LETS) program. Preliminary discovery is a procedure where you can obtain documents relevant to a claim you might have in order to decide whether or against whom to bring it.  On the same day, Chan filed a statement of claim alleging that the report prepared by LETS and provided to Centrelink contained fraudulent and defamatory allegations and that those allegations were part of a conspiracy to injure him.  Both cases came before Justice Cowdroy for case management.

The application for preliminary discovery was ultimately dismissed for want of prosecution by Justice Cowdroy on 10 December 2010, but not before Chan had made an unsuccessful application that Cowdroy J disqualify himself because he had presided over a previous application by Chan in May 2009 for preliminary discovery.  Those proceedings were against Tran, an employment consultant to Centrelink, for documents relating to Chan.  Cowdroy J had made orders for preliminary discovery, Tran had produced some documents, Chan complained that production was incomplete and brought a notice of motion against Tran for contempt, Tran produced some more documents, Cowdroy J gave leave to Chan to withdraw the application for contempt and the proceedings were otherwise dismissed by Cowdroy J in June 2009.

Chan appealed against Cowdroy J’s refusal to disqualify himself and then against the final decision.  The appeals were ultimately dismissed (after various collateral issues were raised by Chan) by Justice Katzmann on 11 April 2011.  Chan instituted a fresh appeal which was dismissed by Justice Rares in May 2011.

By then, steps were underway to have Chan declared a vexatious litigant.  That will be the subject of the next post in this series.

 

Forty years on

June 5, 2017

On Saturday night I went to a reunion of my year from high school.  This was a “back to school” day where you could watch the football matches of the day, have a tour of the classrooms and facilities, and then have dinner.  I just went to the dinner.

The school is a boys private school.

In my time boarders made up about an eighth of the students – less by the end. Lessons seemed almost a sideline: the sociopathology of the school was overwhelmingly sport, played on Saturdays against other schools.  Rugby was the dominant winter sport.  In the junior age groups (13, 14, 15, 16) teams went down to “G.”  In summer, cricket and rowing shared the crown.  Tennis and swimming were outliers.  Soccer (as we called it then) and basketball were introduced under sufferance for winter and summer respectively.

Instead of an elected school captain, we had an appointed senior prefect – invariably a prominent athlete and cadet under-officer and usually at least reasonably academic. Once a king or queen in Narnia, always a king or queen. The same goes for senior prefects – he has sent out the invitations for reunions in previous decades and did so again this year, though with the assistance of the school which by now has become very organised in its alumni relations.

Email and the internet make this sort of thing much easier than it would once have been.  Starting a few months ago there has been a flurry of emails as far-flung ex-schoolmates hit the “reply all” button announcing their intention or inability to attend and the odd broadcast reminder seeking missing contact details.

I did not respond to these.  At these reunions, it is the sporty element and boarders who are best represented.  A circulated list of those who had accepted to date confirmed this prospect. Few of the people I had much in common with were on it.

Then a “reply all” from an unlikely source mentioned me.  I havered right up to the last moment, then took the bait, making the necessary payment on the Thursday just before.

On the night we were about 50 out of a year which started with about 150 boys in first form and ended up with about 125 at the end of year 12.

I don’t know if we ever had a ten-year reunion.  I went to a twenty-year one in 1997.  That was the first time I saw my school fellows as a group as adults.  For me the chief interest was the small group of people (including myself) who had turned out to be gay.  Even then, not all of them chose to make any general declaration about that.  We formed a little quasi-masonic secret society for the night.

I remember some of our little sub-lodge as having a miserable time at school.   It never really occurred to me that any of them might be gay.  It was sufficient explanation for their plight that they were not sporty.

I don’t even recall having any particular theory about NH, a singer and dancer who went on to make a career around the world, though perhaps subliminally I did.  I shed a tear on hearing of his death some time in the 90s and I still remember him for both his beauty and his sweet disposition.

Seven other members of our year have died since we left school, so far as is known.

This time I was “the only gay in the village.”

The noisy sporty ones behaved pretty much as I expected.  Rowers were the hardest-core.

It wasn’t a night of many revelations or long-deferred denouements.  Those mostly happened 20 years ago – apart from the news in the meantime that a he (not one of the gay group) has become a she.

Nevertheless I’m still feeling a little shaken up, without being able quite to identify why.  Maybe it is just a matter of reverberance, a milestone passed, and the reminder when seen together of how old we are and are becoming, forty years on.

 

 

 

Disguised as a second trombone

June 2, 2017

On Tuesday night to Angel Place to hear the SSO playing Nick’s Playlist.

The SSO “playlist” concerts are a series which plucks members of the orchestra from their (relative) obscurity as members of the ensemble and gives them a short, interval-less program with an Angel-Place-sized orchestra to present a program made up of items which have particular meaning for them.  I’ve listened to broadcasts of some before and mostly they are a bit predictable so far as violinists tend to choose good violin bits, etc etc.  They are also a bit too chatty and made up of bits and pieces for my taste, so I haven’t previously chosen to go to them.

Then I received an email offer of a $25 ticket.  The Nick of the title was Nick Byrne. I checked the program and resolved to go.  The reason?  It featured the ophicleide, an instrumental curiosity which has long held a peculiar fascination for me.

Nick Byrne’s association with the ophicleide is well-known.  In the course of the concert he told the story of how it came to be, and it is a good one.  You can find a version of it in the Daily Telegraph with a fetching photograph of Byrne and, possibly more importantly, his ophicleide.

In about 2001 Nick came off his motor-bike on the race track at Eastern Creek (yes, he is a brass player) and injured his right shoulder and arm.  That is a pretty critical injury for a trombonist (as Nick is) – even left-handed trombonists mostly operate the slide with their right arm. Faced with a good six weeks where he would be hors de combat, Nick rummaged around in the SSO instrument cupboard (it can’t have been quite as simple as that) and found an antique (c. 1830) and delapidated ophicleide.

I suppose an ophicleide could best be described as a cross between a euphonium and a baritone saxophone: most importantly for this story, it has keys (rather than a slide)  so could be played despite the state of his arm. The sound is produced with a brass embouchure.  It’s sometimes described as a precursor of the tuba, but the bore is much narrower.  It is otherwise sometimes described as a member of the keyed bugle family – though I see from Wikipedia that a valved variant was also made.

Nick told how he managed, over time, to produce a tolerable sound from it, and realised that here he might have found another niche, rather than just always being a second trombone.  I thought that a rather comical description of his plight.

Since then Byrne has established quite a profile for himself, recording a CD.  The American composer William P Perry heard that CD and then wrote a suite/concerto for Byrne who features on the recording of that by Naxos.   Nick encouraged us to seek that out and to buy the CD or download it (sign of the times).

But back to the program.  This was:

HANDEL arr. Archibald (for brass ensemble)   Arrival of the Queen of Sheba

BRUCKNER orch. (for string orchestra) Stadlmair  String Quintet in F: Adagio

FALCONIERI  Passecalle (played by 2 sackbuts, organ and percussion)

BERLIOZ    Rêverie et Caprice for violin (Andrew Haveron) and orchestra

MOZART   Masonic Funeral Music

PERRY     Ophicleide Concerto: Pastoral

KHACHATURIAN   Masquerade: Waltz

MENDELSSOHN    A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Overture

Nick explained that the Handel, played by the brass ensemble from the balcony back of the stage, was a piece he had first played as a teenager (in an ensemble of mostly tertiary students) at the Canberra School of Music.  It was a great concert-opener.  There were flugelhorns and Paul Goodchild on a smaller, higher trumpet.

It’s not quite so clear how the Falconieri got into the program.  It was not specifically written for any particular instruments, and could just as well (as Byrne remarked) be played by 2 viols.  I suppose more specifically sackbuttian music would either require more of them (such as Purcell’s funeral music) or other forces not convenient for the program.

The Perry was the a movement from the suite or almost concerto for ophicleide referred to already.  You can find Byrne’s recording on Youtube.  I’m still scratching my head to work out what the opening solo “lick” in that reminds me of – something niggles at me that it is a tune with words which end “loving you” but I cannot track it down.

In real life the ophicleide came across a bit less prominently than in that recording.  it revealed itself as an amiable instrument – a sort of Perry Como of brass, or given the mood of the piece, some pre-war crooner.  It was good to hear it so exposed, even if, overall, the strongest impression it gave was of being conspicuously inoffensive.

It was hardly surprising that, as a trombonist, Nick should have chosen Bruckner, Berlioz and Mozart.  Each of them has famous music for the trombones – Bruckner – the symphonies, and some church music; Berlioz, any of the brave trombone lines in many of his big orchestral works; and Mozart, church music again and of course, echoing that and echoing down the years since, the famous trombone moment in Don Giovanni.  The oddity of the program was that, probably owing to constraints of venue and available ensemble, none of the works chosen to represent these composers included a trombone.

I’ve never been a great fan of string orchestra stuff, so for me the Bruckner struggled to make an impression after the Handel.  The Berlioz, a violin concertante work based on some operatic offcuts, was new to me.  Its stop-start changes of mood proved a bit elusive and I wondered just a bit about what the rehearsal “budget” for this concert had been, though it remained a great treat to hear it and I shall now search it out.  The Mozart was just right, especially as the plainchant tune sounded forth from the clarinet and oboes – reminiscent, in a way, of the duet of the two armed men in Magic Flute.  And there were 3 basset horns and a bassoon making up the winds.  This was a concert of instrumental peculiars.

After the Perry, things revved up for the big finish.  First the Katchaturian, described by Byrne as a tribute to his Russian… – well, he struggled for a noun at that point as he did at a few other points.  This was rousing.

Finally, we came Mendelssohn’s overture to MSND.  As Byrne said, and truly it is so, this is the piece for which the ophicleide is most famous – certainly, I first learnt of the ophicleide when studying the score an AMEB theory or musicianship exam more than 40 years ago.  The ophicleide part is mostly played by a tuba these days, which Nick declared was “like a bull in a china shop.”

Of course that meant that I had to pay particular attention to the ophicleide part, which is probably a bit of an aesthetic distortion. On strength of Tuesday’s performance, Byrne has a point. How could I ever go back to the tuba? Of course there is more to the MSND overture than the ophicleide, including what I understand to be one of the most difficult woodwind chords in the repertoire to get in tune.  It was a great end to the night.

So an enjoyable concert and very good value.

Afterwards we were invited to join members of the orchestra for a drink in the foyer.  I hope they were given a bar tab for their pains.  I bought a drink (detracting from the bargain rather) but was too shy to approach anyone.  What could I have said?  I might have said to Emma Scholl how much I admired her last G# in the Mendelssohn, but I couldn’t spot her.

In the course of the concert, conductor Benjamin Northey made a little joke, on the topic of unlikely musical sentences.  Northey cited as a classic instance something like:

 “The clarinettist’s Lamborghini is parked at the front of the building.”

(Actually, not so unlikely except as a matter of degree: Mr Celata has pretty flash taste in cars as I recall.)

Northey offered:

“The ophicleidist will be selling his CDs in the foyer.”

Not that, as it happened, he did.

All of a sudden I realised why Nick’s remark about finding a niche had seemed so comical to me.  My own musical sentence in honour of the evening, albeit not entirely without precedent is:

“The ophicleidist was disguised as a second trombone.”

 

Proposed travel ban for pedophiles

May 30, 2017

News  is out today that the Australian government, at the urging of HH Derryn Hinch, will be taking passports away from convicted pedophiles.  It is estimated that over 20,000 convicted sex offenders on the National Child Offender Register may lose their passports or their eligibility for them.

It’s a slippery slope, and we seem to be rushing headlong down it.  Here is one comment by “Mark II” on that story:

I think it’s a great initiative – I am no supporter of this government but I think this will sail through with bipartisan support. In fact, I’d extend it further, and say anyone convicted of a trafficking offence for drugs or serious financial misdemeanours should be barred from travelling, too. I’m not talking about a recreational marijuana user or kid who’s swallowed some E down the club – but anyone selling, sorry, you lose the right to be tempted a la Corby and the current clone. And – if you rob your employer or clients and go to jail for it – likewise. No escaping overseas to start anew and avoid your garnishee responsibilities.

At  least “Mark II” shows some awareness of the possible blanket-reach of such measures.  Good luck to him in expecting that the authorities will draw the right line between serious and minor offences – the current approach to even trace elements of drugs (which provide no evidence of intoxication or impairment) in roadside drug tests is a case in point.

Others cheerfully propose even more radical measures without such awareness.

My own feelings are more in line with this comment, by “Jack” (though “scum” is not a word I would choose to use even of people who do very bad things):

I agree child sex tourists are scum. But we need to be careful with populist blanket legislation because, as we have seen, it can have unintended consequences and it can impose excessive punishment on those individuals who are not likely to reoffend. This is why authorities, even in the USA, have questioned the fairness and effectiveness of blanket sex offender registers. So I’d rather see a targeted register, with judges having the option of putting a name on it.

 

If you follow the jurisprudence in NCAT and other tribunals dealing with applications for Working with Children Clearances (rough selection here), you will soon discover that a very broad range of people commit offences against children.  Only some of these are indicative of a settled tendency to abuse children; many others are products of specific situations which are not likely to be repeated or where the person convicted is likely to rehabilitate and has by now shown that to be the case. These, include juvenile “sexting,” obsessive curiosity in the face of the internet, difficult family and personal circumstances, immaturity and loneliness.

There is a whole heap of bus drivers who have done something wrong within their own family, often many years ago, but who have driven buses without incidents for decades, who are currently been deprived of their employment even though the likelihood of their offending against someone outside the family must be very small – as their incident free record since demonstrates.  They go to the tribunal to try to get a clearance but often fail because they lack the resources to mount a proper case.

Some people who have pleaded guilty many years ago to what then seemed a minor offence (which they might have defended) must now regret that decision bitterly.

To ban someone for life from leaving the country is a very simplistic response to a wide range of offences.

If there are to be travel bans, it would be better if these were imposed on a case by case basis when there is a real risk; they could be limited by time or subject to some procedure for review/extension.

I realise that whilst this could be done going into the future for fresh offences, it would leave unaddressed the question of historical offences.

It is not easy to see how this can be addressed.  The many difficulties just expose to me the fundamental wrongness of imposing a civil disability retrospectively in a blanket way.

Cases of notorious sex offenders in South-East Asian countries (mostly) are rightly a matter of outrage, but they must be a very small number compared to the 20,000+ on the Child Sex Offenders Register (plus those whose offences occurred too long ago for them to make it on to the register).

One possibility would be to impose a more selective ban, targeted to those with historic offences whose travel activities indicate repeated travel to “child sex tourism” destinations.  In the future, this would require more rigorous collection of destination information for overseas travellers, which at present is mostly based, I expect, on self-reporting on travellers’ return.

Whatever will be done will involve some overreach, and even if there is a mechanism for appealing against it, will inevitably work against the less well-resourced.  It will also work against people with family overseas who have legitimate reasons to visit them and for whom the usual assumption (and Government attitude) that a passport is a privilege rather than must be questionable.

In the meantime, we can expect charges of offences of this nature to be defended more vigorously than ever, with attendant trauma to complainants/victims.  This is already happening.  Even when there is a plea of guilty, the process of investigation (to ensure nothing worse happened) and prosecution has its own Heisenberg effect, as in the case of Christopher Ryan Jones which led to victim impact statements from victims who would probably otherwise have been happily oblivious of the wrong done to them.

 

 

 

 

 

The HIP village

May 23, 2017

On Saturday night, on a Saturday afternoon impulse (I heard it mentioned on ABC “Classic” FM at about 4.30pm), to Angel Place to hear the Australian Romantic and Classical Orchestra.  The title was “Unfinished Romance.”

ARCO is a rechristening of the trendily lower-case and alpha-numeric “orchestra seventeen88,” “established in 2013, by Richard Gill AO, Rachael Beesley, Nicole van Bruggen and Benjamin Bayl.”

Richard Gill was billed to conduct.  I hesitated because of Mr Gill’s propensity to educate.  I wondered if I should keep my phone on to run a stop-watch on his chats to the audience.  He’s not known for his shyness when it comes to this sort of thing.

As the lights came down on an empty stage, Nicole van Bruggen came to a microphone to announce that Gill was indisposed and that the concert was to be conducted by guest concertmaster, Jakob Lehmann.  Rachel Beesley would step up to her usual spot as concertmaster.

That wasn’t all Nicole wanted to talk to us about. She wanted to welcome the orchestra’s sponsors; and also the audience.  She mentioned the 10,000 flyers that had been distributed (a sobering thought: whilst level 1 of the City Recital Hall was reasonably full, levels 2 and 3 had not been opened: perhaps there were 500 of us there).  She reminded us of the next concert, in September.

That is to be one of those “smaller ensemble” concerts.  ARCO is far from the only “orchestra” which keeps itself before the public by presenting concerts of this sort.  I think these are a bit of a swizz but I can understand why they do it.

Back to last Saturday’s concert.

In the first half Fiona Campbell was vocal soloist for a Rossini set:

The Barber of Seville: Overture and Rosina’s opening recitative and aria, Una voce poco fa and Io sono docile;

The Italian in Algiers (this is the conventional translation of the title but more accurate is The Italian Woman in Algiers – “Italian” is crucially gendered): Overture and Cruda sorte! Amor tiranno! and

From Cinderella, Angelina’s (=Cinderella’s) final triumphant recitative and aria, Nacqui all’affanno and Non piu mesta.

Originally the HIP movement made claims for itself a bit like those of Protestants in the Reformation.  If we can strip away the accretions of performed tradition and the distortions of evolved musical instruments [analogy: Catholicism, purgatory, sale of indulgences, etc], we will get back closer to the music as originally conceived [analogy: apostolic church].  What we hear will be more true and more “authentic.” [GOD]

Now the claim seems more limited: the instruments themselves and their sounds will offer insights to the music that a modern instrument performance cannot.

It’s a wise reformulation.  Certainly for the Rossini it would be a moot point which is more authentic: a concert performance of overtures and arias, or an actual staged performance, with a (modern instrument) orchestra which knows its way round Rossini, even if through a glass darkly of the Chinese whispers of accumulated tradition. (Why stop at one metaphor?)

So I didn’t find the Rossini really gave me a HIP epiphany.  Of Fiona Campbell’s arias, the best for me was the one from Cinderella.  It can’t be a coincidence that this is the role she has taken on the stage.

Which is not to say that it wasn’t all very enjoyable, despite some oboe mishaps.  The early instrument sound I most enjoyed was the bassoons – I love that buzz.

I’m not sure though where I would place Rossini in the Romantic pantheon.  Judging from Kater Murr, ETA Hoffmann would not have found a spot for him there.

The second half featured Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony preceded by his very early (even by Schubert’s standards) Overture in C minor for strings.  Let’s pass over the Overture;  the Symphony yielded all sorts of revelations.  I was most impressed by the minatory trombones but the whole was distinctively poetic. The gleaming beauty of the final chords moved me to tears.

On its website ARCO republishes an interview with Ms van Bruggen from Fine Music. The opening gambit is: “It takes a village to raise a child, what does it take to raise an orchestra?” It’s a nice question.  My own feeling is that an orchestra is a village – which rather short-circuits things.  Venue, musicians, audience and repertoire all need to come together.  Otherwise, in Thatcherian terms, “there is no such thing as society” – and there won’t be.

Orchestras and ensembles come and go.  Orchestra Romantique a few years ago turned out in retrospect to have been a vehicle for Nick Carter which did not survive once he moved on.  The great success story in Australia of this sort has been the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, but it took a few years from 1989 when the orchestra was established.  The big breakthrough for them was probably in 2000 when Angel Place opened: now they give their program there a phenomenal six times with two more performances in Melbourne and another in Brisbane.  This obviously makes assembling and rehearsing the ensemble much more sustainable.

That’s an aspirational goal for ARCO.  First they will want to populate the second and third levels at Angel Place.  As the orchestra was mostly standing, the sound could well have been better on Saturday there than in the stalls.  On Saturday the audience still felt very much one of friends and supporters rather than the general concert-going public.

I hope ARCO can continue and consolidate.  The two things I wish for them at present are that they could (1) muster a larger string complement (especially more violins) and (2) put on more frequent orchestral-scale concerts.  Judging from the Schubert and reviews of their last concert’s Mendelssohn, the early German Romantic (say, Weber to Schumann via Schubert) could be a good niche for them to concentrate on.

Americana

May 17, 2017

On Saturday night with P and her husband, Xn, to the Australia Ensemble’s concert, titled “Americana.”

The program was:

Jennifer Higdon (b 1962): Smash (2006) for flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello and piano

Aaron Copland (1900-1990): Duo (1970-71) for flute and piano

Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904): String Quartet no.12 in F major, Op.96 ‘American’ (1893)

[Interval]

John Adams (b 1947): Gnarly Buttons (1996)

Obvious odd man out at first glance is Dvořák – but is he really?  I thought of, in another country and another art-form, D H Lawrence’s Kangaroo.

First up, Smash was short, fast (it felt faster than the performance on Youtube) and furious.  I can’t say I was really crazy about it: it seemed pretty made-to-measure for the kind of piece it was – that probably represents my taste/mood on the day rather than any objective assessment of the skill of the writing.

After that, the Copland, all pensive and wide-open-space-ish, superficially reminiscent of similar stuff in Appalachian Spring, (and in a line which can be traced back to Dvořák)  unfortunately failed the cough test on the night.

I enjoyed the Dvořák.

Xn and I independently formed the view that the Copland might have worked better if the first half order had been reversed.

Gnarly Buttons in the second half was the big ticket item for the night, if only (but not only) for the size of the ensemble.  Roland Peelman conducted.  He also chose to make a little speech beforehand about America and the “fake tunes” in the work and “fake news” today.  I suppose a kind of aperçu was intended. To me it demonstrated nothing very much though it got one of those smuggish mild chuckles which jokes in music so often elicit.

GB is practically a clarinet concerto or concertino – a big play and it’s fair to say a triumph for David Griffiths .  There was a lot to absorb and I don’t know if I really managed to take it all in.  I think I was sitting too close to get it all in proportion.

I’m disappointed that this concert is not to be broadcast – Gnarly Buttons especially  was quite an occasion and were it not for recent ABC cutbacks one could reasonably expect that it would have been.

As it happens, Francesco Celata is playing GB at Carriageworks with the SSO later this year.  With luck I shall have another chance to hear it with some memories of last Saturday relatively fresh.

Ten years

May 12, 2017

It is ten years since the first post on this blog. Some kind of retrospective seems called for.

I had lurked on others’ blogs for years.  I probably caught the blogging wave just as it was about to recede.  As early as September that year I wondered if that was so as I saw blogs falling by the wayside.  That may have been more churn than decline, but by 2012 or 2013 other social media were clearly leaving blogs behind.  Now it is mostly the older and more fixed in their ways who persist.

2007 was the last glorious year of Howard-hating.

At the start I had a backlog of material to unleash on an unsuspecting and generally oblivious world. A number of those early posts continue to attract a steady trickle of attention.

The earliest of these is a post on my childhood choirmaster, who turned out to be a sexual abuser who killed himself in Indonesia in 2006 when confronted with fresh accusations.  At first, many of my fellow choristers were reluctant to concede that the man they knew and remembered gratefully could be the same person.  In the end the dots were pretty conclusively joined.  Other traffic to this post was probably looking for material about a “controversial” and notoriously tough WA chief detective who was murdered, allegedly as revenge for his shooting of a bikie.

The second is: Never fall in love with a prostitute.  Good advice but not always easy to follow.  I cited a Chinese proverb, 戏子无义 婊子无情, roughly “A performer is unrighteous; a whore is heartless.”  One rueful comment: “of course i know this saying but still fallen.”

Another is Are you Gay? Can you prove it?

Yet another is Rice Queen, Potato Queen.  In that post I took advantage of the strong opinions on both of a young overseas student from Malaysia, Je.  Daniel, Je’s not much older Australian boyfriend, took offence on Je’s behalf.  Not that Daniel disclosed that he was Je’s partner when he did so, but it wasn’t hard to work out.  After Je returned to Malaysia (which was a condition of his scholarship), they split up.  You could read all of this on the internet in those days and I am amazed to find you still can.   Daniel (who according to Je was the dumper) is still a quite the keyboard warrior.  Je stopped posting in about 2010.

I published a number of other posts on gay/asian/in Australia topics at that time.  It’s hard to tell because I am now totally out of any “scene,” but my feeling is that this is an area where, gradually, the cultural/racial/sexual frontier is smoothing out and the terms on which it is crossed are becoming more equal.  There’s still a way to go, though.

Meanwhile, in terms of the racial border and who is crossing it, if you see two men, one “East” and one “West,” out and about, D and I reckon they are more likely to be gay than not.

Caveat Solicitor is a not very interesting post which whose title nevertheless exerts an attractive power.  If you come up against the one you are likely to be looking for the other.

Pussy porn was brazen and quite-successful-for-a-few-years click-bait and my first post featuring my cat.

I wrote a post on Geoffrey Leonard, a self-avowed “boy-lover” who courted fame and (with a bit of help from A Current Affair) found it. This led to his conviction and imprisonment in 2008 for a self-published and internet-published book which was held to include child-abuse material by reason of his reproduction of an edited police fact sheet and edited police statements of 2 boys whom he had been convicted of abusing in 1989.  (The sentence was imposed concurrently with a sentence for possession of since-deleted child pornography on his computer to which Leonard pleaded guilty.) This post still attracts attention because Leonard has become a kind of internet cult figure.

Two later posts on the Guardianship Tribunal (now a division of NCAT) and the NSW Public Trustee and Guardian still attract attention because so many people are caught in the toils of one or the other or both, generally when a family member (usually a parent) becomes incapable by reason of age. In my opinion the Tribunal is far too ready to resolve any intrafamilial conflict by conferring powers on the Public Trustee, which is surprisingly expensive and apparently almost totally immune from any effective oversight.

These posts all still get readers because (apart from “Pussy Porn”) they meet some otherwise unanswered niche demand of one sort or another.

Early on I also indulged in an orgy of self-dislosure on the themes of jobs I have had and homes I had previously lived in.  Since then I have remained in the same job. I have yet to bring things up to date in relation to my last two homes.

I suppose I could try to identify my own favourite posts.  That depends on my mood and probably requires too much context to determine.  Instead I shall confine myself to one generally neglected post.  This, based on a Court of Criminal Appeal judgment, retells an almost comic and possibly fantastical story of one night in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney when a bunch of Arabic drug dealers decided to muscle in on the turf of young Yuri Mogilevsky.  I changed the names in the post to protect the Mogilevskys who had meanwhile found themselves in hotter water with the police after moving to greener pastures in St Ives.

I’m a bit disappointed this story hasn’t made it onto the small screen.  My favourite bit is where (as Yuri claimed) one of the gang putting the heavy on him said: “I’m going to enjoy killing you … I’m Palestinian, do you know what we do to Jews.”  Some hapless Irishmen were drawn into the events as well.

When I started this blog I identified my interests as “in no particular order: law, music, opera, gay issues, and China.”  After working off a bit of initial steam, I haven’t said so much more about “gay issues” and I haven’t ended up saying much about China.  I was last there in mid-2014.

That’s partly because, in order since then my cat, my stepmother, my father and my aunt have died.  It is a matter of privacy rather than disrespect to the latter three that the cat’s death has had more coverage on this blog.  He would have turned 20 last month:

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This retrospective would not be complete without also remembering my friend and onetime housemate, S, who only went to operas if they were set in Egypt and included female nudity.  This March it was five years since he took an early mark at the age of 45.

On the road

May 7, 2017

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A spot I’m fond of.

The view from the road (which may be more informative for the cognoscenti):

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Adrian Ashley of the House of Cooper

May 3, 2017

One day, Adrian answered a knock at his front door.  He was seized by two men.  Adrian said they were assaulting him; they said they were policeman (which, though in plain clothes, they were) arresting him on a bench warrant for failure to attend court in relation to a charge for possession of cannabis.

Adrian called out to Izabella-marie, who was in the house.  She phoned Keith for help.  Keith talked on the phone to the police but was ineffective in dissuading them from taking him to Newtown Police Station.  Keith (and maybe Izabella-Marie) went to the Newtown Court House.  Keith’s account of what happened there is as follows:

(18)   We [Keith] went into the court room, where the presumed magistrate (her office/title was undisclosed) was made aware that We believe the Man called by Adrian may be under false arrest due to the fact that due process of law to which Adrian was deprived and was not followed, as such the officers may have committed assault, abduction and kidnap in company without warrant.

(19)   One [Keith] was asked by the Magistrate if we wanted to apply for bail.

(20)   We made her aware that we wanted him released immediately due to the failure of the police officers to follow due process of law.

(21)   The Magistrate then asked “Mr Cooper” if he wanted bail? One informed her that Adrian was not a Mister as this is a military title and that he is not in the military and that the man known as Adrian uses no titles.

(22)   The Magistrate said “bail is refused” and left the court, knowing we were there to get Adrian released as we believe the Police officers may have exceeded the alleged authority which would be misfeasance of their office and therefore also committing a wrong/tort in their private capacity under common law.

On 26 April Keith went to the Supreme Court seeking a writ of habeas corpus for Adrian’s release.  He said (to paraphrase):

  • Adrian was a loyal subject of the Queen who believes the St James Bible to be the only law and has not consented to be governed by the laws of this state (having delivered a declaration to that effect to the police);
  • Possession of cannabis could not be a crime, citing Genesis:
    “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.”
  • The arrest was unlawful because (1) the police did not have the warrant with them; and (2) because it was effected violently.

None of these points succeeded before Justice McCallum, sitting as the duty judge.  As the application (which was procedurally irregular in many respects) had been brought outside usual sitting hours, she dismissed it and reserved her reasons, now published as Application of Adrian Ashley of the House of Cooper [2017] NSWSC 533.

As to the Genesis argument, McCallum J couldn’t resist a bit of judicial humour (at [10]):

The point might have been made in response to the petitioner’s [Keith’s] submission that, according to those words, if it is God who supplies cannabis to man, it is for nutritional rather than recreational purposes.

but seriously, folks:

In any event, I took the view that the matters contended for by the petitioner would not afford a defence to an offence against ss 10 or 23(1)(c) of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act1985 (NSW), which prohibits the possession of cannabis in a number of forms, regardless of its origin.

She held that is not necessary for police to be in possession of a warrant to effect an arrest under it.

The “Hutt River Province” argument was manifestly hopeless.  As she concluded [these numbers should start at 24]:

  1. I did not think it was reasonably arguable that the applicant’s [Adrian’s] affirmation and proclamation were effective to relieve him of the constraints imposed upon him by the law.
  2. Unsurprisingly, the petitioner concluded his submissions by citing Magna Carta (version not identified).
  3. After hearing from the applicant at length, I formed the view that no reasonable basis for a writ of habeas corpus was disclosed and, indeed, that the application was manifestly hopeless. In that circumstance, I did not consider it appropriate to grant the relief sought or to make orders for any further step to be taken in the proceedings.
  4. I wish to record that, during the hearing, I informed the petitioner on a number of occasions that it remains open to the applicant to make a release application under the Bail Act 2013 (NSW). The petitioner appeared to reject that proposition, evidently taking the view that a release application is only appropriate in circumstances of lawful detention, whereas he contends the applicant’s detention is unlawful. The petitioner’s view is misconceived in that respect and he potentially does the applicant a disservice in adhering to it. It is to be hoped that the applicant is aware of his entitlement (notwithstanding his stated position of eschewing the benefits and privileges conferred upon him by the State) to bring a release application under the Bail Act. Any such application is likely to be better received without the embellishment of insistence upon medieval modes of address or ill-informed incantation of God’s law and Magna Carta.

Oh, everything is so civilized in the Supreme Court, even if it is only on the surface.  Of course it didn’t get Adrian out of gaol.  Nevertheless, Justice McCallum heard Keith and allowed him to make his application at length, outside normal court hours, and even gave a little bit of judicial advice.

I wonder if things were all so sweet when, next morning, assuming the police delivered him up, Adrian was brought out of the cells to appear before Magistrate Greg Grogin at the Central Local Court.

Maybe they weren’t.  The charges in the Local Court are listed for mention on 11 May, again at the Central Court, which is the one set up best to deal with people already in custody.

Unfinished books 3

April 30, 2017

This is the third post in a series.

Another book I salvaged from my parents’ collection is Australia Felix, the first volume of Henry Handel Richardson’s trilogy, The Fortunes of Richard Mahony, in an edition published as a Penguin Modern Classic in 1971.  My copy is a 1977 reprint.

Obviously “HHR” finished it;  I couldn’t.

Part of my problem was that it is a story which, from the outset, one knows will not end well.  I always have difficulty with these: King Lear, Otello. are two examples which spring to mind.  Yet I am happy to go to operas, where, God knows, a tragic ending is often enough a given, so that cannot really be the problem.

Another is that first-half-of-the-twentieth century realism is not, for me, a high point of literary history.  Even the discovery of a new word within the first three lines – “uprights and tailors” – a word which I have been unable to find in a dictionary but which presumably refers to tailed timber cross-struts – was no consolation.  As far as I got, it all seemed so dreary.

Yet I suppose I could overcome that.

Meanwhile, squatting over my reception of the work is a xxviii page introduction by Leonie Kramer.  Kramer’s work on the sources of The Fortunes of Richard Mahony was, if truth be told, her only substantive academic work.  The rest was energy and politics which are not congenial to me.

To her protégées, and they were many, Kramer was an inspiration; to my crowd when I was a student in the English department at Sydney University she was an unloved and unwelcome reactionary.  Just one of the counts against her was that she had complained when Dennis Altman was invited to speak about homosexuality to medical undergraduates at UNSW, including one of her children.

I still cannot work out how a Professor of Australian Literature thought it right that she become a member of the board of Western Mining; let’s not get started on her role in the push for demutualization of the NRMA.  Though she disdained feminism, she was a useful conservative female figurehead.

Enough.  The woman is dead now.  I should try to get over her, but it may take a bit more time.

I’ll hold on to my copy of Australia Felix a little longer in case the cloud lifts.